December 8th, 2010 CHRIS STAMM | Food Reviews & Stories
 

Heaven Sent

Angel Food and Fun’s cochinita pibil will convert you.

     
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It might lack the truly lunatic ring of Portland’s favorite restaurant name, “Husky or Maltese Whatever,” but Angel Food and Fun is a downright silly designation for an establishment that doesn’t have a ball pit or bedazzled strippers. The “fun” no doubt refers to the Mexican joint’s adjoining pool hall—a drafty, fluorescent-lit space that resembles the saddest Corona-themed bar mitzvah of all time or one of those chintzy dens of iniquity in which a bad guy in a Steven Seagal movie might meet his maker.

So let’s just say the ambience is lacking in a rather intriguing way, and that the Yucatecan specialties being cooked up in the restaurant proper are a bit more exciting than Angel’s idea of fun. The beautifully constructed panuchos ($1.75) are ideal starters: These three-bite wonders tweak the tostada formula with bean-stuffed tortillas acting as crisp carriers for shredded chicken, avocado and pickled onions. The similar salbutes ($1.75) are essentially panuchos minus the savory contributions of black beans; delightful snacks they may be, but eminently skippable so long as their superior fraternal twins are on the menu.

Skip the poc chuc ($11.99) along with the salbutes: Though colorfully comely, the flavorless spread of parched pork and produce is woefully lacking a marinade or dressing or some such viscosity to enliven the platter. Better is the relleno negro ($9.99), a simple mud-black turkey soup with a mellow burnt-chile broth. It has potential to become a winter favorite for snifflers fed up with pho, but the lukewarm pool I dipped into recalled nothing so much as yesterday’s chicken noodle soup. Perhaps this is the temperature at which relleno negro is traditionally served. If so, tradition has it all wrong, but a few more minutes over flames is all the correction it needs.

Angel Food and Fun would be yet another hit-or-miss neighborhood convenience if it didn’t do one thing so soul-stirringly well that I hesitate to publicize it for fear there will not be any left for me when I return. That thing is called cochinita pibil ($9.99), and I want to marry it. Angel’s take on the Yucatan’s most famous dish finds citrusy, sunburn-red broth swimming with slow-cooked cuts of tender pork that fall apart at the touch of a spoon; by the time half of the bowl is empty, you will be tucking into a gloriously unified mass of steaming flesh and grease that would not look out of place burbling up from the earth as a lava-slow current of perfect sustenance. You will not be disappointed—unless you hate life.

  • Order this: Cochinita pibil ($9.99).

  • Best deal: Panuchos ($1.75) make for an excellent prelude to cochinita indulgence.

  • I’ll pass: The dry, bland poc chuc ($11.99).

EAT: Angel Food and Fun, 5135 NE 60th Ave., 287-7909. Lunch and dinner 11 am-7 pm Monday, 11 am-10 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-11 pm Friday and Saturday, 11 am-8 pm Sunday. $ Inexpensive.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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